By Caitlin Preminger
Every time someone asks us what Filipino food is, our answer is immediate and concise: it is our history on a plate. Philippine cuisine is a reflection of the various cultural influences–consensual or otherwise–that have left their mark on the island nation over the course of its history as a trading partner and occupied territory. Malay influences began some twenty thousand years ago and are challenging to trace, but include the use of vinegar, coconut and coconut milk. Trading with the Chinese began in the ninth or tenth centuries and resulted in the Filipino adoption of noodles, steamed buns, dumplings, egg rolls and the use of condiments. The Spanish left innumerable, indelible marks on Philippine food and culture in their 333 brutal years of colonial rule: meat, dairy, seasonings and spices made their way to the islands from Spain, to say nothing of the produce introduced through Spain’s colonial holdings in the New World. In true imperialist fashion, the United States had a brief hand in Philippine rule and left behind a taste for canned goods and foods of convenience.
For this Saturday’s program, we will serve a tasting of rice variants that demonstrate these culinary influences. Lugaw is directly descended from Chinese congee. Our binalot consists of rice with adobo. Binalot refers to the method of wrapping a meal in a banana leaf, which can be traced to ancient Malay practices. Adobo itself is pre-colonial; its indigenous name is now unknown and the Spanish influence is clearly visible in the name the dish bears today. Ginataan bilo-bilo serves as dessert. Ginataan refers to the method of cooking something in coconut milk, another impression left by the Malays. Even within the Philippine dietary staple of rice, there are easily visible traces of the many outside cuisines that mingled and merged with native Philippine food.
Sarahlynn Pablo is the resident writer for Filipino Kitchen. Her work also appears in print in Street Food Around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (2013, ABC- CLIO), 1,000 Places to Get F*cked Up Around the World (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) and the forthcoming Food City: The Chicago Encyclopedia (University of Illinois Press, 2015). Sarahlynn is the assistant editor at AmazingRibs.com, one of the highest ranking barbecue websites. She volunteers as the co-editor for the food section of Hyphen Magazine, one of the oldest Asian American magazines.
Natalia Roxas is Filipino Kitchen’s photographer and web designer. Her work also appears on the websites of her many freelance clients. When she’s not behind the lens or the laptop, Natalia manages events for artisanal Chicago creampuff company Puffs of Doom at national festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.
Caitlin Preminger contributes to Filipino Kitchen as project manager, calendar keeper, editor, writer and transcriber of interviews. Her back-of-house experience has kept pop-up events ahead of the game on several occasions. In between managing the often-lofty goals of Filipino Kitchen’s co-founders, she handles research and development for Botas66, a shoe brand imported from the Czech Republic.
Chef Rob Menor is executive chef at Papa Urb’s Grill in his hometown of Stockton, California. He spent a decade cutting his teeth in Chicago before returning to the West Coast to serve Filipino food with a twist. Chef Rob focuses on passing on his techniques and traditions to the current generation of forward thinking, progressive, modern influenced, traditionally taught/inspired, and creative minds in Filipino/a, and Filipino/a-American food.
Recorded live at Kendall College on October 10, 2015.
- Saralynn Pablo